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Open IoT SBC runs Linux and Android on Cortex-A9

Feb 7, 2014 — by Eric Brown 4,474 views

Newark Element14 launched the RIoTboard, a $74 open source SBC for IoT applications that runs Android 4.3 or Linux 3.0 on a 1GHz Freescale i.MX6Solo SoC.

The “Revolutionizing the Internet of Things” (RIoT) single board computer is designed for a variety of Internet of Things (IoT) and other low-power embedded applications, says Newark Element14, a Chicago based distributor owned by Premier Farnell. Premier Farnell recently launched an ARM9-based EDM6070AR-01 SBC and HMI system. Both the RIoTboard and the EDM6070AR-01 are backed up by the company’s Element14 developer community, and supported with open source code and full schematics.

RIoTboard, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The RIoTboard runs on the single-core Solo version of Freescale’s Cortex-A9-based i.MX6 system-on-chip, running at up to 1GHz. For years, the Solo, which offers a 3G accelerator, but not an HD video accelerator, has been overshadowed by the dual- and quad-core i.MX6 models. However, with the recent interest in IoT applications, the low-power SoC seems to be gaining more traction. Last month, for example, Freescale announced a tiny i.MX6Solo-based SBC aimed at the wearables market called the Warpboard.

The RIoTboard weighs in at $5 less than the $79 Solo version of the Wandboard, the major community-backed SBC based on the i.MX6. The Wandboard is also available in dual- and quad-core models.


The RIoTboard is equipped with 1GB of DDR3 RAM, twice that of the Wandboard Solo. It also offers 4GB eMMC, a microSD slot, and an undercarriage SD slot. By comparison, the Wandboard Solo has dual microSD slots, but no pre-installed flash.

RIoTboard port detail
(click image to enlarge)

As with the WandBoard Solo, there’s no built-in WiFi or Bluetooth. Both boards get by with gigabit Ethernet ports, as well as whatever wireless dongles one adds to the USB ports. Once again, the RIoTboard has the upper hand here, providing four USB 2.0 host ports, as well as a mini-USB OTG port. The Wandboard Solo has one each.

Like the WandBoard, the RIoTboard features a coastline HDMI port. Somewhat unusually, it also offers a coastline LVDS port, which Newark says supports an LVDS8000-97C adapter board from Embest. Audio ports round out the coastline connections.

Other RIoTboard onboard interfaces are more similar, including camera and serial interfaces. The RIoTboard features a variety of expansion interfaces including GPIO, I2C, SPI, and PWM. Unlike the Wandboard, the RIoTboard adds JTAG and parallel RGB interfaces. The one major I/O advantage provided by the Wandboard is its S/PDIF connection.

RIoTboard block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The 120 x 75mm RIoTboard runs on a 5V power supply and supports a commercial 0 to 50°C temperature range. Android 4.3, Linux 3.0, and Ubuntu Linux stacks are available for download at the Element14 community, which also offers manuals, schematics, and Freescale CodeWarrior and ARM DS-5 development tools. A variety of debuggers, emulators, and other development tools are also available.

In contrast to the WandBoard, the RIoTboard is truly a single-board design — a distinction that could be cast as either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on your perspective. The 95 x 95mm WandBoard uses a COM-plus-baseboard “sandwich” design, which makes it more complex but eases the task of customizing the aggregate assembly.

RiOTboard specs

Specifications listed for the RIoTboard include:

  • Processor — Freescale i.MX6Solo (1x Cortex-A9 core @ up to 1GHz) with 3D accelerator, SD video accelerator; Freescale Kinetis K20 MCU and MMPF0100 power management IC
  • Memory:
    • 1GB 32-bit wide DDR3 @ 800MHz
    • 4GB eMMC flash
    • MicroSD slot
    • SD card slot (rear side)
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet port
  • A/V I/O:
    • HDMI port
    • LVDS port
    • Parallel RGB interface
    • Analog, 3.5mm headphone/mic audio jack
    • Camera interface (supports CCD or CMOS)
    • MIPI lanes at 1Gbps
  • Other I/O:
    • 4x USB 2.0 host ports (type A, 480Mbps)
    • 2x Mini-USB 2.0 OTG 480Mbps ports (1x reserved)
    • 2x RS232 serial interfaces (1x UART2, 3-line; 1x UART3/4/5, 3-line expansion port)
    • 2x I2C interfaces (expansion)
    • 2x SPI interfaces (expansion)
    • 3x PWM interfaces (expansion)
    • GPIO (expansion)
    • Debug interface (3-pin TTL level)
    • 10-pin JTAG input interface
    • Boot configuration interface
  • Other features — 4x LEDs (2x user-defined); reset button
  • Power — 5V/4A AC-to-DC supply
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 50°C
  • Dimensions — 120 x 75mm (4.7 x 3.0 inches)
  • Operating system — Android 4.3, Linux 3.0.35, and Ubuntu Linux 11.10 images available

RIoTboard applications are said to include vertical/industrial/educational tablets, smart home appliances, IP phones, and scanners. Other listed applications include smart metering, factory automation and HMI, digital signage, point of sale, and medical/patient monitoring and telehealth equipment.

Further information

The RIoTboard is available now for $74. More information and links to sales may be found at Newark Element14’s RIoTboard product page.

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4 responses to “Open IoT SBC runs Linux and Android on Cortex-A9”

  1. Jon Smirl says:

    Again they left off the most interesting feature of the iMX6 SOLO – the PCIe port. Put a miniPCIe connector on these boards! miniPCIe lets you plug in an 802.11ac wifi board, something that is not supported on Allwinner or Rockchip.

    • Melroy van den Berg says:

      I totally agree. I needed this PCI-e feature! It could be a killer feature… Now the only option is either create my own board or buy a similar board with a pricing of 200 euro’s!

  2. jezra says:

    Does anyone have information regarding the Linux offerings for this device? Similarly, does anyone know which graphics chip this device uses? I checked the product page, but there are only references to Android.

  3. Dave says:

    The graphics accelerator is a Vivante GC880 for 3D and Vivante GC320 for 2D. Linux is Ubuntu, there’s a link on the main Riotboard product page now that was missing before.

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